I'm a very lucky guy to be doing what I'm doing, and there isn't a day that goes by when I don't remind myself of that. Sometimes I say it to my wife, too, but she already knows how lucky we are. My wife and I moved to the island of Penang in early 2010. A small island—15 miles long and 12 miles wide—on the west coast of Malaysia, Penang, which is connected to the mainland by a six-lane bridge, is just two hours' drive south of Thailand.
Penang ticked all the boxes for me when I was researching a place to live overseas. This cosmopolitan island in Malaysia provides me with all the things I wanted from my new home, including a lower cost of living and friendly locals and expats.
Nick Fawcus-Robinson wakes most mornings well before the sun rises. Padding around his bungalow in bare feet to make a cup of tea, while the cocks crow outside, I'm sure he ponders his past life now and again. Maybe. Nick was an officer in the army for many years and a highly paid corporate executive in the tobacco industry after that.
Jennifer and Elisa were living in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Both were aspiring entrepreneurs, and both were on the look-out for a business idea. Elisa had lived in China before moving to Cambodia in 2006 with her family. Jennifer, meanwhile, moved to the Southeast Asian country in 2001 with her partner and two children. Jennifer had worked in the tourism industry for years.
As I meet more and more people who are interested in moving here, I think back to the day in 2009 when I made the decision to move to Malaysia. It wasn’t that I was unhappy—in fact, far from it.
When my wife Lisa and I moved to Penang, Malaysia, we decided to join The Penang Sports Club, a five-star facility boasting more lawn tennis courts than any other club in Malaysia. The tennis players there are all levels and ages—a few weeks ago I had a match with a gentleman who is 82. What I love about the club is that most evenings you can turn up on your own, register for a game, and find yourself playing with strangers who soon become friends. It’s incredibly social and we’ve been greeted warmly as new members.
One of the truly great things I've discovered about living in Malaysia is that it's the perfect jumping off point for exploring some of the region's most stylish destinations. Whether you're in the mood for a mini-break in a bustling city like Bangkok or a beach retreat in Bali, you can get there quickly, cheaply, and in style.
There’s so much to love about island life in Penang, Malaysia, that it’s hard to know where to start. The cost of living has gone down due to the strength of the U.S. dollar and the falling Malaysian dollar, which is great for expats living here. For example, a 2,000-square-foot apartment with sea views that cost $900 a month to rent two years ago is now just $700.
Dawn and Phil first came to Malaysia for a four-month break to recharge their batteries. Nothing had been planned and they liked the idea of just winging it, but they did visit the island of Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. However, George Town in Penang, with its colonial heritage, was where they spent most of their time.
One of the most diverse regions on Earth, Southeast Asia is home to a myriad of different religions and cultures, many of which trace back thousands of years. And every year, the unique cultures of the Far East manifest themselves in a variety of colorful festivals, all free of charge, the likes of which you will find nowhere else on the planet. Add to this some of the world’s best beaches and street food, and you have every reason to stop by this neck of the woods.